Inuit and climate change in prehistoric eastern Arctic: a perspective from Greenland
Mikkel Sørensen (University of Copenhagen)
Paper short abstract:
From recent field work in northeast Greenland Inuits prehistory is discussed in relation climate change. The paper suggests that social dynamics caused by human mobility and cultural encounters are most important to succeed climate change in a long term perspective.
Paper long abstract:
This paper addresses archaeological and historical Inuit societies and their responses to climatic changes. It is argued, that societal response to climate fluctuations is best understood in an intergenerational time perspectives and at large geographical scales, as it can be provided in the deep archaeological time scale within the Arctic world. From recent field work in northeast Greenland this areas prehistory is discussed in relation climate change. This case is followed by a discussion of four aspects that are considered crucial to Inuit's adaptation and success during the centuries of the "little ice age", i.e. 1) the initial Thule Culture migration into the eastern Arctic, 2) breathing-hole sealing technology, 3) snow house technology and 4) Inuit's long distance travels in the 18th century. It is from the cases concluded, that Inuit did not invent new strategies or technologies in relation to stress induced e.g. by climate change. Instead they relied on an inherent flexibility in their living and being in the Arctic, involving a high mobility and frequent migrations at the individual level, which enabled them to succeed crisis caused by social conflicts as well as environmentally dependent changes. Further, that Inuit had an ability to creatively integrate technologies and life-ways, resulting from their cultural encounters, e.g. with people from the Late Dorset Culture, European whalers and Moravians, that were successfully employed when climatic induced environmental changes affected their life and societies. The paper suggests that the social dynamics caused by human mobility and cultural encounters are most important to succeed climate change in a long term perspective.
Past weather, past climate - archaeology as Environmental Humanity